Vaslav Nijinsky

In class I head that Vaslav Nijinsky was institutionalized, and I thought it was interesting to research someone in the ballet field that was seen as “insane”. Nijinsky was a Russian dancer and choreographer, seen as the “greatest dancer of the early 20th century”, as he was able to dance en pointe, very rare for male dancers, and performed amazing leaps. He is most noted for performing in ballets such as Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, and Cleopatra. He went on to choreograph futuristic ballets that audiences were not used to, which caused many people to reject this new style. In “The Afternoon of a Faun”, Nijinsky, the leading role, mimed masturbation with a nymph, which caused a scandal in the ballet world. His more unconventional style lead to a strained relationship between Nijinsky and Sergei Diaghilev, founder of Ballets Russes, and eventually crumbled when Nijinsky married Romola de Pulszky, another dancer in the same company. He was dismissed; unable to find work elsewhere he tried to create ballet companies, but could not keep up with the stress and the fact that he could not dance as much as he used to. He became mentally unstable, diagnosed with schizophrenia, and spent the rest of his days in asylums and clinics. His legacy still lives on today and he is credited with being one of the most important ballet dancers of all time. 


Kelsey Haywood


5 thoughts on “Vaslav Nijinsky

  1. I wanted to comment on this post because honestly it was so wacky and interesting how could you not? In my post discussing Le Spectre de La Rose, Vaslav Nijinsky is one of the principle dancers, the spirit rose, so I thought this was pretty interesting to get some background information on him. First of all, I didn’t know that there had ever been a male dancer that had the ability and grace to be on pointe. I tried to look up some videos of him on youtube, but it was somewhat tricky to find any because it was over 100 years ago. Second, he must be an amazing dancer because he was involved many big time ballets. Third, I think his dramatic is so interesting. Who would’ve thought that an awesome ballet dancer would be dropped to the curb because of marrying another company member? Not me!

    Madeline Roebuck

  2. I found this post extremely fascinating. Vaslav Nijinisky had a complicated life to say the least and I was enthralled with the psychological changes in him as his life began to spin out of control. I think it is very disheartening to see that he ended up with schizophrenia and finished out his life in insane asylums. To see someone who is credited with such magnificent fine arts contribution end their lives unhappily and suffering the consequences of their hard efforts into their career is heartbreaking. But, as many people, who are rich, die old and lonely- sometimes the sacrificial people to an art form must give up their own happiness for the sake of the art.

    Mariah Bartelmez

  3. Artists have the most dramatic lives. I think many of them have the whole life imitates art mentality so they purposefully try to make it dramatic. I think it’s strange that he was able to dance en pointe, but I also think that more men should try to do that. Why should women have to do all the hard balancing work? I also find it interesting that he married a woman after his relations with Diaghilev. I can see how this would have upset Diaghilev but he should’ve been more professional about it and shouldn’t have kicked such an incredible dancer out of his company. For a businessman, that was not a smart idea.

    Abby Jones

  4. It would be highly interesting to know what was going through Nijinsky’s mind through all of these ordeals; for instance, why would he spontaneously decide to marry a girl, despite being in a relationship with Diaghilev? I think there are two sides to every story, so there has to be a reason for his actions. As for the controversial ballets, I think his were a bit too “out there”. To have scenes like that in what are supposed to be family friendly ballets are not exactly necessary. I understand that he was trying to deliver a message, but there are limits.

    Lana Rakestraw

  5. I find artists such a Nijinsky to be very intriguing. He was obviously a very passionate dancer, constantly plagued by his emotions. I am sad to know he lived out his life in asylums. While he may have been one of the most radical artists of his time, his choreography greatly impacted the ballet world. His must have known that many people would respond negatively to his unconventional ballets, but he obviously didn’t care what others thought of him and proceeded with them anyways. I don’t agree with some of the more inappropriate parts of his ballets, but I like that he incorporated unusual things like having the men on pointe.

    Amanda Ziegler

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